Wednesday, 25 March 2015

The Condition of the Suffering souls in Purgatory, by Rev. John A. Nageleisen. On the Means of Relieving the Suffering Souls. Part 21.

§ 37. The Mass of Requiem.

203. The loving solicitude of the Church for the relief of the Suffering Souls is demonstrated by the ancient ecclesiastical customs which have come down to us. Holy Mass was at all times her foremost means of relief. As observed before in the course of these treatises, the Holy Sacrifice is offered for the living and deceased members of the Church in general, and is also celebrated for certain souls in particular. For this latter purpose the Roman Missal has a special rite or manner of celebrating Mass. St. Thomas Aquinas observes, "The Church, even in very early times, prescribed certain proper Mass formulas for the various occasions on which she prays and offers sacrifice for the souls of the faithful departed, in order that the priest may make use of these formulas in Masses for the dead when no obstacle intervenes to prevent him from doing so. The objection is futile, that the fruit of the Mass is the same, whether the formula of Mass of the Blessed Virgin, or of the Holy Ghost, or that of Requiem be used: for true as it may be that the Holy Sacrifice, as such and in virtue of its own efficacy, obtains the same fruit in such cases; nevertheless the Mass of Requiem celebrated for the dead produces—for them—a greater fruit, because in it prayers are added to the Holy Sacrifice which have for their special object the relief and ransom of the faithful departed, for which reason they obtain a-special fruit."

204. By prayer we can obtain every grace from our Heavenly Father; but no prayer, however fervent it may be, can obtain from God so sure and speedy a hearing as may be obtained through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. If we remember what has been said hitherto in these pages on the essence and value of Holy Mass, we will easily comprehend why Holy Mass is so effective a Sacrifice of impetration. In the Sacrifice of our altars Christ Himself implores His Heavenly Father with us for the fulness of all blessings. In Holy Mass Christ descends into the midst of His faithful, to unite the voice of His Blood, which cries to heaven more powerfully than the blood of Abel, with the supplication of the Church of God on earth. And if God according to His promise grants us everything we ask in the name of His dearly beloved Son, why should we not obtain all the gifts of His mercy through this Holy Sacrifice ? Christ obtains everything He asks for us; His Will never remains unfulfilled. And when He—our merciful and faithful High-priest, our true Paschal Lamb—is mysteriously sacrificed on our altars: must we not believe that then, during those hours of grace, His intercession with God is all-powerful? Hence St. Chrysostom aptly remarks: "The holy angels await the time of Holy Mass to intercede for us during it more effectually ; and what we do not obtain during the time of Mass, we will scarcely receive at any other time." St. Alphonsus Liguori "says, "Consider that God hears the prayer of the priest more willingly during Holy Mass than at any other time. True, He imparts His grace at all times when asked in the name of and through the merits of Jesus Christ, but during the time of Mass He grants them much more willingly; for then our prayers are sustained and reinforced by the prayer of Jesus Christ, whereby they receive immeasurably greater efficacy, because Jesus Christ is the High-priest who sacrifices Himself in order to obtain grace for us."

205. Hence the Church not only offers the Sacrifice, but joins various prayers and ceremonies with this offering. Being the Spouse of Christ, the Church is always resplendent with sanctity. Therefore the Sacrifice, attended as it is with so many prayers and supplications, is graciously received from her hands by God and rewarded with abundant blessings. The entire sacrificial rite being performed in the name of the Church, it moves God most effectually to grant His favors to the living and the dead. For this reason the Church usually gives expression to our needs and desires in such a manner that we can easily discern what kind of favors she intends to obtain by Holy Mass, and for whom she intends to obtain them. The rite of the Mass of Requiem is so entirely and so exclusively adapted to the wants of the faithful departed, that prayers for the living are not allowed in it except in the . Canon, which remains the same in all Masses. The liturgical prayers for the departed are productive of a special fruit which is added to the fruit essentially contained in the sacrifice; and the whole is granted to the soul for whom the Mass is applied. The essential fruit of Holy Mass, which is inherent in it in virtue of its own efficacy, comes directly and solely from Christ's oblation of Himself, and is therefore entirely independent from the formula of the Mass.

206. According to St. Thomas a clearly expressed sentiment pervades the Masses of Requiem, which also indicates the grace obtained thereby; and these Masses enjoy greater privileges than other votive Masses. The fundamental sentiment of Requiem Masses, in which all their peculiarities are embodied, is the ardent yearning of the Church to devote all her prayers and the full fruit of the Holy Sacrifice to the release of the Suffering Souls.* Our affectionate Mother the Church makes intercession for her departed children: will God, our Father, repulse her whom He Himself gave us for our Mother through His Divine Son? This loving Mother imitates the example of Our Divine Savior, who clothed the holy sacraments in visible signs for the purpose of letting us share in the graces of redemption. Do we not conduct water and other fluids to their destination by means of pipes ? Break the conduit and the current will cease to flow: reject the visible signs of the holy sacraments and the means of grace will be denied to you. The rite of Requiem Masses is a form established by the Church to draw the grace of heaven down upon the souls in Purgatory. If the formula of Requiem Mass is not used, the value of the Sacrifice will by no means suffer diminution; but the fruit of the Church's supplication will be wanting.

207. This being the chief sentiment of Requiem Masses, -both priest and people join in them by praying in the name of the Church. In this supplication lies the special fruit of these Masses. Their whole rite is adapted to the end that this supplication may be made from the depth of the heart, so that the Suffering Souls may receive increased consolation also from the charity of the priest and of the faithful. Hence in Requiem Masses everything is omitted by which the benefits personally gained by those who assist at the Sacrifice are indicated: the water to be mixed with the wine is not blessed, nor is the blessing given to the people; deacon and subdeacon also receive no blessing. At the Introit the celebrant does not sign himself with the cross, and incense is used only at the Offertory. At the Gospel neither incense nor lighted candles are used; the kissing of the book and the kiss of peace are omitted, also the prayer preceding the latter. At the Agnus Dei the Church supplicates for peace in the name of the deceased, for eternal peace. The psalm Judica, in which no reference is made to the departed, is omitted, as is also the Gloria Patri. But the Church gives full vent to her mourning and supplication in the touching strophes of the Dies irae. The Requiem aeternam, etc., and the Offertory are always recited in the plural number, to indicate that the souls of all the faithful departed share in the general fruits of the Holy Sacrifice, although its special fruits are reserved for the souls for whom it is offered in particular.

Christian soul! Cultivate a great esteem for these rites of the Church in the firm conviction that in all her beautiful ceremonies she is led by supernatural motives.